By LARRY VAUGHT
Mercer County battled Hamilton Heights (Tenn.) Christian Academy to a 25-25 tie in the first half before falling 51-37 Monday in Nashville in the Music City Classic.
The Titans had won 17 straight games since a season-opening loss to Riverdale (Tenn.) — the nation’s No. 1 going into the season. Mercer managed just seven points in the third quarter and five in the fourth.
“We were down by five points with about two minutes left in the game,” Mercer coach Chris Souder said. “Hamilton Heights is by far the most talented team in the country.”
Hamilton Heights (15-2) is ranked in the top five nationally and also beat Mercer last year when the Titans won the Kentucky state championship.
“We had to play a different style because of their length and size,” Souder said.
His team normally pushes the ball and looks for the first available shot, but not in this game.
“We went to the old swing the ball 10 times before putting up a shot,” Souder said. “I’d say time of possession was in our favor by quite a bit.
“They are just huge and hard to press, so we had to alter our style. It was a very good learning experience. Their size gave us trouble.”
All-state guard Seygan Robins, a Louisville signee, led Mercer with 16 points but Emmy Souder, Mercer’s leading scorer on the season, had just 3 points.
“She struggled offensively with the 6-6 girls down low,” Souder said.
That seldom happens as Souder has been averaging 14.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
“Northern Kentucky stole Emmy because she just keeps getting better. I still don’t think she has touched how good she can be,” Chris Souder said. “She can be an all-conference player in their league. Her brother, Landon, comes in after practice and works with her on playing with her back to the basket. He’s beating on her all the time. He cuts her zero slack. She has left a couple of times almost in tears, but she has got a lot better.”
He feels the same about other players
“Emma Davis’s role is different. She is starting and playing more minutes is new for her,” the Mercer coach said. “The twins (Lexy and Faith Lake) seem to kind of alternate who has a good game. Lexy hit five 3’s in the first quarter in a game at Naples (Fla.) That makes us hard to guard most games because somebody is going to step up.
“We still have lots of room for improvement. To be 17-2 with the schedule we have played, is not bad. If you had told me we would be 17-2 in October, I probably would have told you that you were crazy. I’m pretty pleased overall with where we are.”